Images of cats from the British Museum collection, £9.99
Length: 30.500 cm
Width: 128.000 cm
Collected by H.O. Forbes
Gift of Sir A.W. Franks (1883)
Africa, Oceania, Americas
Embroidered girl's jacket
19th century AD
Jacket decorated with shell beadwork
This jacket is made of a striped handwoven textile. It is lined with plain cotton and the front panels are decorated with couching, embroidery, and shell beadwork. Couching involves tying down accessory elements such as ordinary or metallic thread, sequins, coloured yarn, or other bits of ornament to the surface of the cloth with a series of short stitches. Shiny materials, such as the pieces of mica and shell on this jacket, are caught in a pattern of embroidery on the surface of the fabric giving it a dazzling appearance.
The technique of couching is highly developed on the island of Sumatra, with the best fabrics coming from Lampung in the south of the island. They are also highly sought after in peninsular Malaysia. The use of gold, silk and metallic threads, indicating a higher status and rank, spread throughout the courts of Sumatra and Kalimantan. It was introduced from China in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when the wealthy Chinese living in Indonesia imported a large number of costumes for themselves. Marriages between rulers and women from China developed yet further the influence of Chinese court costume in Indonesian textiles.
M. Gittinger, Splendid symbols: textiles and (Washington, D.C., The Textile Museum, 1979)
J. Gillow, Traditional Indonesian textile (London, Thames and Hudson, 1992)
R. Maxwell, Textiles of Southeast Asia (Oxford University Press, 1990)
M. Hitchcock, Indonesian textiles (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)